It seems like such a short time ago that we were remembering Paris, honoring Paris, saluting Paris for the vicious attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher supermarket. Je Suis Charlie, Je Suis Ahmed, Je Suis Juif, were everywhere. We paid our respects to the victims and we, as a community and a country, attempted to give strength to all of Paris.
We talked tough about vengeance and justice, we swore we would not let the terrorists win, and we uttered the words that are so meaningful for the Jewish community, “Never Again!” And yet here we are, 10 months later, mourning again for France. All of us in the Louisville Jewish community once again are standing with the people of France.
Violent Islamist extremism is a scourge on decent people everywhere. Just since the beginning of this year, it has touched Beirut, a Russian plane, Kenya, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, Paris – twice, and, of course, Israel, which is no stranger to being a victim. Countless other locations have been victimized.
As I watch and read the news there is no shortage of experts pontificating on what caused this attack, and the two things I hear most often are that there was an intelligence failure and that this was not totally unexpected.
I don’t pretend to be an expert, but from a layman’s perspective, it is extremely sad that countries need to be investing so much money and effort in the security of restaurants and concert halls.
I also hear pundits talking about the change that needs to come in France, like metal detectors everywhere, a visible military presence in the streets, increasing intelligence gathering on their own citizens. All this might be necessary, but it is so sad that it has come to this.
But one thing I am hearing in the news coming from the political leadership in Europe is particularly disturbing and we cannot accept it. There are now serious questions as to whether it is wise to open our collective doors to the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria in desperate need of assistance.
What separates us from the extremists is our humanity and it is now in our hands to act humanely. Due diligence is required in vetting anybody trying to enter our country, but we must open the door and welcome them in and treat them with warmth, not suspicion.
We cannot give the terrorists a victory by treating our new Arab and Muslim neighbors with anything but genuine hospitality. Let us not forget the horrible scenes we see of desperate people forced to leave Syria to save their lives and their families, and let us not forget that the violent Islamist extremists represent a small minority of a great people … people who will for the most part make great Frenchmen, great Germans, and great Americans.
New Initiatives with the Muslim Community
Here in Louisville our Jewish community can set an example for coexistence and friendship with the Muslim community. Last month, in response to a deadly earthquake in Pakistan that killed over 400 people and injured thousands more, our community started a campaign to raise money for the victims. Not only is it the right thing to do for the survivors of this tragedy who are still suffering, it is a further step forward as an example of cooperation of our local Muslim and Jewish communities. If you are interested in donating to this worth cause, please visit www.jewishlouisville.org/federation/south-asia-earthquake-relief/.
We will also be repairing the world with our Muslim friends, and our first step will be on December 6, when our communities will come together for the JCRC’s second annual Project Warm Blitz. Several teams from our two communities will join Project Warm in insulating the homes of those less fortunate, ensuring that they do not freeze this winter and that their utiltity bills are more manageable.
We will start at noon for a brief training and we will be working all afternoon If you have questions and/or are interested in participating, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 502-238-2707.
These will be the first steps in a long march arm in arm with our friends and neighbors in the Muslim community, so stay tuned for more opportunities and friendships to be solidified. Let’s all pray that we prevail over the terrorists in every possible way, with strength of arms, and strength of spirit.
Partnership Trip to Israel
Please join us and our 13 other Partnership2Gether Consortium communities in a trip to Israel this spring. This is the 20th anniversary of our partnership and we are celebrating with a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Travelers will get to spend a few days in the Western Galilee, Golan Heights, Upper Galilee and other beautiful parts of Israel.
Louisville has always been an active participant in Partnership, and we have developed close relationships with our friends in Israel. The trip is March 28-April 4, 2016. For more information please contact me at email@example.com.
Interfaith Chanukah Party
Come join us on Sunday, December 13, at 2 p.m. in the JCC’s Linker Auditorium as we celebrate Chanukah with our greater Louisville community. There will be music, candle lighting and, of course, lots of delicious food!!
We will honor Fred Whittaker, local Holocaust educator, at that time.
We are also collecting winter hats, gloves and mittens for needy JCPS students, grades K-12. Open to all; invite your non-Jewish friends.
For more information please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.